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Big Bad 1971 Mustang Boss 351
Victor Manzano’s 1971 Boss 351 was a restoration turned into a mild restomod with just a change of wheels
The 1971 Mustang Boss 351 you see on these pages was restored back to original condition in 1997 by its owner at the time, Frank Ghilotti. You know the signature look: front spoiler, functional and blacked-out hood, body side tape stripes, and more often than not, the optional 15x7 Magnum 500 wheels. Frank was the car’s fourth owner, and after his restoration, he just maintained it and showed it a bit. He eventually sold it to Victor Manzano during spring 2003. All that was left for Victor to do was to change a couple things that were incorrect and drive it and show it—nice and simple.
But Victor really enjoyed driving his Boss 351 to all the shows, partly because he usually had the only Boss 351 at the event. Victor was a regular attendee at the Mustangs Plus bi-annual shows in Stockton drawn by their mix of modified and stock Mustangs. But he heard that Mustangs Plus owner Ron Bramlett was planning to start a new show called Restomods in May 2005 in Reno. With Reno less than a four-hour trip from the Bay Area, Victor didn’t want to miss out on any of the fun at this inaugural event, but figured his restored Boss might look out of place in a sea of restomodded Mustangs, some of them on the extreme side.
Ron had assured Victor that original cars were welcome, but Victor still waffled. After thinking about it for a bit, he came up with a simple solution. A modification that was easy to reverse and easy to spot—a set of aftermarket wheels. But which style? He needed one that didn’t want to ruin the look of a classic Boss. After giving it much thought, Victor settled on a set of 17x8 polished American Racing Torq-Thrust wheels with P245/45R17 BFGoodrich Traction T/As mounted. Once said tires were mounted on the wheels, Victor headed up to Reno. There, he was rewarded for his efforts by winning his class.
But it wasn’t just the wheels that helped him win. Showgoers were obviously impressed with the restoration done on the Boss. Plus, you don’t see a Boss 351 too often—only 1,806 were produced before the car disappeared for the 1972 model year. And in a way, a Boss 351 is already “modified” via Ford Motor Company.
Produced for the 1971 model year only, the Boss 351 carried the torch passed on by the Boss cars of 1969 and 1970. It lived up to the Boss name by being a car that would accelerate, brake, and handle with the best offerings from Detroit and used the 351 Cleveland engine with modifications to pump the output to an underrated 330hp at 5,400rpm. Boss 302 heads were modified and adapted to the engine, along with a cast crankshaft, forged connecting rods, and forged aluminum pistons. The block had four-bolt main caps, solid lifters, a dual-plane high-rise aluminum intake, and an Autolite 750-cfm carburetor replaced the 780-cfm Holley that topped the Boss 302. Compression ratio was a high 11:1—the 1971 models were the last of the Ford high-compression engines. The Boss 351 equaled, and even surpassed, the acceleration of other big-block muscle cars of the era and had plenty of low-end grunt, which the Boss 302 lacked.
Other mechanicals included a four-speed Top Loader transmission with a Hurst shifter, competition suspension, power front disc brakes, 3:91 Traction-Lok gearing, dual exhaust with non-exposed tips, and the infamous rev-limiter. All this could send the 3,860-lb beast down the quarter mile in the high 13- to low-14-second range. It also handled the twisties well with the same .71g skid pad performance that the smaller Boss accomplished. Everything just worked right, especially when you take into account the extra weight a Boss 351 carried over its Boss 302 sibling.
Victor’s Boss was sold new by Galpin Ford in Sepulveda, California, and had a sticker price of $4,858. Optional equipment on the Bright Red with Vermillion interior Boss are a fold-down rear seat, Mach 1 Sports Interior, power steering, tinted glass, and the Magnum 500 wheels. Of the three Mustangs in his corral (which includes a 1969 428 Cobra Jet Mach 1 and a 1970 Boss 302), Victor prefers to drive the 1971. It rides nicer and handles better than the others, and the inside is roomier and more comfortable.
Today, more than a decade later, those American Racing wheels are still mounted on all four corners of Victor’s Boss. He has no plans to take them off and no plans to sell the Pony, but he does plan to keep on driving his red-hot Boss. He’ll just keep on rolling in style.